Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has demoted the former head of U.S. Africa Command who spent thousands of dollars of taxpayer money on unofficial travel and other unauthorized expenses, the Defense Department said.
Army General William Ward will be forced to retire as a three-star lieutenant general and repay the government about $82,000, said Pentagon Press Secretary George Little.
Panetta “insists that leaders within the Department of Defense exemplify both professional excellence and sound judgment,” Little said in an e-mailed statement. “The secretary is committed to ensuring that any improprieties or misconduct by senior officers are dealt with swiftly and appropriately.”
Ward, who served as the first commander of Africa Command until last year, “engaged in multiple forms of misconduct related to official and unofficial travel,” wasted government money and “misused his position,” according to a redacted version of an inspector general’s report obtained in August through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Ward denied wrongdoing in a letter to the inspector general cited in the report. His spokesman, Chris Garrett, said in a statement today that Ward “has never been motivated by personal gain and fulfilled each and every mission assigned to him and served his country and the men and women assigned to his commands with distinction.”
While Ward ‘is not perfect,” Garrett said, for more than 40 years Ward “has dedicated his life to honorably and selflessly serving his soldiers, their families and the United States of America.”
Ward served as head of Africa Command, the newest of six regional geographic commands, from Oct. 1, 2007, to March 9, 2011. He was a four-star general, the highest rank in the Army.
Since leaving Africa Command last year, Ward served as a special assistant to the Army’s vice chief of staff, according to Army spokesman George Wright.
The inspector general, the Pentagon’s watchdog, found Ward used taxpayer money for personal trips, let his staff rent cars at public expense to take his wife to a spa, and accepted meals and Broadway theater tickets from a Defense Department contractor.
It said Ward spent public money on trips to New York City in 2010 and Atlanta in 2011 “when the primary purpose was personal,” in violation of federal guidance and military policy, according to the report, which was dated June 26.
In denying wrongdoing, Ward said the disputed trips involved official business for Africa Command, according to his letter.
The inspector general said Ward let his wife accompany him on military aircraft 15 times “for purposes that were not unquestionably official” and without reimbursing the U.S. Treasury. The report also found Ward spent more than $34,000 a year on a one-day holiday party held at his residence in 2009 and again in 2010. Ward brought a “protocol specialist” from the U.S. to Stuttgart, Germany, where Africa Command is based, for a month to help organize the party, according to the report.
Ward said use of the specialist “supported a training program and execution requirement for a very important official function.”
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